The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 28, 2011 8:30 am ET


Frank Mergenthaler - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Michael I. Roth - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Executive Committee

Jerome J. Leshne - Senior Vice President of Investor Relations



Good morning, and welcome to the Interpublic Group Third Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] This conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. I would now like to introduce Mr. Jerry Leshne, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations. Sir, you may begin.

Jerome J. Leshne

Thank you. Good morning, and thanks, everyone, for joining us. We have posted our earnings release and our slide presentation on our website,, and we'll refer to both in the course of this call. This morning, we are joined by Michael Roth and Frank Mergenthaler. We will begin with prepared remarks to be followed by Q&A. We plan to conclude before market open at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

During this call we will refer to forward-looking statements about our company, which are subject to the uncertainties in the cautionary statement included in our earnings release and the slide presentation and further detailed in our 10-Q and other filings with the SEC. At this point, it is my pleasure to turn things over to Michael Roth.

Michael I. Roth

Thank you, Jerry, and thank you all for joining us this morning. We're pleased to report strong organic revenue growth, operating profit and net income for both the third quarter and the first 9 months of 2011. As you have seen in our release this morning, Q3 organic revenue growth was very strong at 8.7%.

Operating profit was $173 million, an increase of 73% from a year ago. Our operating margin was 10% compared to 6.5% a year ago, and diluted earnings per share were $0.40, $0.16, excluding our gain on the Facebook transaction. The $0.16 of earnings per diluted share compares very favorably to the $0.08 for the same period last year. For the 9 months, organic growth was 7.5% on top of strong growth during the same period a year ago. Operating profit thus far in 2011 increased 38%.

In the third quarter, growth was led by our businesses in the U.S., Lat Am, Asia Pac and the U.K. We had growth in most client sectors. Digital was a major contributor to our growth. Our specialist agencies and, just as notably, the digital capabilities within our integrated agencies, marketing services firms and those at our media businesses all contributed to our strong performance. This performance further validates our digital strategy, which is to ensure that all of our agencies embed digital expertise at the core of their offerings, primarily through investments in talent and tools, as well as targeted acquisitions where necessary.

We're pleased to see high-single to low-double-digit organic growth at all of our integrated global networks, as well as double-digit growth in marketing services. We continue to manage our growth carefully and strategically. High-quality operating talent combined with effective business controls means that top line growth is accompanied by expense discipline and, therefore, converted to operating profit. In the third quarter, we achieved 350 basis points of margin expansion. For the 9 months, that number was 130 basis points. This improvement was achieved by leveraging both our principal expense lines. At quarter end, our trailing 12-month operating margin was 9.1%, which is the highest for any 12-month period at IPG in many years.

During our prior conference call, we expressed confidence that the pacing of revenue and expenses in 2011 would result in strong margin expansion. I'm sure you will agree that our third quarter results are indicative of that fact. We believe that disciplined investment in our people and our offerings will continue to drive competitive, organic revenue growth and improved profitability. This is a long-standing commitment, one that is backed by the track record of this management team and our operating unit leadership in recent years. Our performance in the 9 months has us positioned to deliver on this year's financial targets. We believe that we will also remain on track for fully competitive profitability and significant value creation as outlined at the Investor Day presentation we shared with you back in March.

In Q3, we also returned capital to our shareholders at a rate above that contemplated when we initiated our repurchase program in late February. During the quarter, we purchased 15 million shares using $130 million alongside $27 million in common share dividends. Through 9 months, we've utilized $269 million towards repurchase and buying in 27 million shares. And as you know, in conjunction with the Facebook transaction in August, our board raised the total authorization under the repurchase plan to $450 million.

Coming into this year and on our previous conference call, we shared financial performance targets with you, a 4% to 5% organic revenue growth for the year and operating margin of 9.5% or better. Taking into account our strong performance for the 9 months and balancing an appropriate degree of caution due to the current uncertainty in the global economic environment, we feel we can exceed these targets this year, particularly with respect to our revenue growth.

As we move forward into the fourth quarter, the tone of the business remains solid. We've seen little in the way of pullbacks among clients despite the economic climate. The outlook of our project-based business is holding firm, and the performance of the most economically-sensitive client sectors, auto, financial services and retail, remains solid in the third quarter. We all know that the macroeconomic picture is uncertain, particularly in some markets in Europe. In addition, we will be cycling against extremely challenging comps since in the fourth quarter of 2010, we grew 11.2% organically. Notwithstanding these hurdles, we remain comfortable with our stated performance targets. We're very pleased with the strong quarter and year-to-date, which gives us a real confidence that we can drive strong value creation for the balance of 2011 and beyond. At this point, let me turn things over to Frank.

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